A talented Nigerian team has successfully defeated their competitors from over 130 countries to win the 2022 UNESCO hackathon ICTs for indigenous languages.
The winning entry is a language gaming prototype and it was created by three Nigerians who are passionate about the Ekpeye language.
While sharing the good news of their victory on Facebook, Umasoye Igwe who was part of the group said she started teaching people her indigenous Ekpeye language in 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown.
A heartwarming video shared by the Federal Ministry of Communications showed the moment the group received the award from the Minister of Communication, Isa Pantami.
Her words: “The past week has been surreal, I promised to share about the journey in this post.
“Covid was a blessing in disguise for me and many others. It availed us the opportunity to pause and re-think.
“In the year 2020, I was just a clueless 300lv undergraduate who wanted to help other students from my ethnic group learn the Ekpeye language.
“I was planning for a physical class when COVID struck and then the lockdown happened. All school activities were put on hold, even the plan.
“I thought I had given up on the idea, not until a thought crossed my mind in April. “Why not have virtual tutorials instead”. I thought to myself…
“Immediately I created a WhatsApp group, but then I remembered my Ekpeye was still very rusty, and would have to invite fluent speakers to take some of the lessons.
“I reached out to fluent native speakers on Facebook Godson Ume Olimini godss.creationss Obi-Isdore Ogenma Gracy and some others, and they all agreed to teach, not a single No!
“A date was set, I sent out invites and the lessons commenced, we had a 5-day tutorial and everyone was pleased. I know because we got a lot of reviews.
“Goal achieved. I was happy and felt fulfilled. It would have just ended right after that first edition.
“Not until I had a session with Dr. Igazeuma Okoroba, PhD who first talked to me about sustainability.
“At that time I didn’t understand anything about language sustainability. I don’t even understand the rules of languages in the first place, because I don’t have a linguistic background. 😎
“Well, I listened. And we came up with a plan to make the initiative a sustainable one and this resulted in the birth of the Speak Ekpeye Fluently language initiative an NGO committed to fighting language loss.
“Every quarter we would host virtual classes, whilst creating mini lessons on social media platforms.
“This passion has shown me ways through which tech can be used in achieving SDGs.
“In the past few months, I co-created a language gaming prototype with Sims Carl and @Noah which was our entry for the hackathon by UNESCO en español and WSIS Process .
“We emerged winners in our category out of over 135 countries that participated in the hackathon.
“It was an honor to be recognized by the federal republic of Nigeria as a global and national winner contributing solutions for SDGs (Sustainability of indigenous languages) during UNESCO’s hackathon ICTs for indigenous languages.
“This journey of passion has connected me with language experts from different parts of the world. it has also given me a platform to contribute my little to the sustainability of indigenous languages.
“I can only look forward to what the future holds in this journey of passion.
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